Côte d’Ivoire: Investor-backed entrepreneur sees gap for real fruit ice lollies

Syn’el, a company founded in 2017 and based in Côte d’Ivoire, specialises in the manufacture of sorbets on sticks (ice lollies), under the Paletas brand. In 2020, Syn’el received investment from Comoé Capital. Founder Ella Assié (42) answers our questions.

1. Why did you start Syn’el?

I studied in South Africa and when I came back it was so difficult for me to find a job, so I started selling fruits in offices. I tried to find a way to get the fruits to last longer and soon discovered ice lollies while researching on YouTube and other internet sources. I also found there was no such product in my country. What was available contained artificial colourants and none of the products was natural.

Paletas ice lollies are made from real fruit and have low sugar content with no artificial additives. It is ideal for people who are health-conscious and children.

2. How did you finance the company?

I began with my savings. Around the time, I also got a job that enabled me to obtain a loan to buy an ice lolly machine.

A Syn’el employee making Paletas ice lollies.

3. If you were given $1 million to invest in your company now, where would it go?

I would buy more ice lolly machines to increase my production, buy more tricycles for outdoor vending and hire more production and sales staff.

4. What risks does your business face?

Product storage and transportation. Our products are frozen and we have to consider how to transport the products in good condition without melting.

Some of our raw materials, like the packaging and popsicle sticks, are imported. This puts us at risk of factors beyond our control. For example, during the pandemic, the price of these materials and the shipping costs increased substantially.

Children eating Paletas ice lollies.

5. So far, what has proven to be the most successful form of marketing?

Direct sales. Our sales strategies are based on direct sales. In Côte d’Ivoire, people are not used to frozen treats made from natural ingredients. We need to educate them about our products so we do a lot of street marketing and allow customers to taste the product. This is done in front of churches on Sundays, in supermarkets and near schools.

We also use social media to promote our products.

6. Tell us about your biggest mistake, and what you’ve learnt from it?

Fear. I learnt that you cannot be a good entrepreneur when you are afraid as it holds you back. To overcome it, you have to think ahead, otherwise, things like upfront costs, market reception and product acceptance will cause even more fear.

Syn’el founder Ella Assié’s contact information

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